Sustainable Ecommerce and Building Loyalty

The term “sustainable ecommerce” isn’t about being “greener” in your B2B buying. It’s about creating greater Lifetime Value with predictable purchases. In short, it’s about sustaining loyal buyers and consistent revenue through better B2B ecommerce customer management.

Let’s take a moment to determine how you currently sell your products. There are three (3) to four (4) typical channels most B2B businesses use to sell products. These are:

  • Traditional B2B Commerce: utilizing inside or outside sales reps or leveraging retail B2B branches or stores
  • B2B ecommerce: maintaining inventory and assortments online so that your customers can procure large and complex orders for other businesses
  • B2C/D2C ecommerce: leveraging online search and experiences to drive single-cart purchases directly
  • Multi-channel: offering service-based solutions to supplement core channels (e.g., drop ship)

These channels do one thing well. They sell products. And they are almost entirely transactionally based. There is no guarantee of the next sale, which B2B salespeople will tell you is a high motivator to them.

Moving from a transaction-based model to a sustainable model requires some rethinking and planning. In essence, sustainable commerce, and more specifically sustainable ecommerce, is a well-designed and easy-to-use subscription model that creates recurring revenue.

Can you challenge a customer to think about their buying experience differently? Can they look at an item, or a set of items, that they need to have on hand and find a repeatable pattern of when they need those items? This is a chance to reveal and increase your value to your customers. When you take recurring tasks off their plates, they can start to view your company as a partner supplier, and not just as a vendor.

The model can work well for both stand-alone jobs and recurring tasks since some of the better B2B ecommerce platforms can handle the creation of a "Saved List" or "Cart" like what we might see in typical B2C/D2C ecommerce. The B2B customer, and in some cases the sales team consulting with the customer, can create the list of ongoing purchases, and tie that to order management systems that include bids, quotes and freight management.

Let's take a look at a few of the companies who are doing it well and see what examples we can take from them. The first examples are from the B2C/D2C world. Subscription-based “solution” companies like HelloFresh or BlueApron have created a new paradigm for consumer meal planning. Instead of making weekly meal plans and going to the grocery store to procure individual items, these consumers rely on the delivery of ingredients to their house ready for cooking. They save time and avoid the guesswork.

This example can be translated into a B2B arrangement. There is a new type of customer, one investing in your business over time as a subscriber to your value. He or she, like the typical Amazon Business customer, can be prompted to curate a collection and start an ongoing order list. Amazon borrowed this approach from its B2C Amazon Dash Button model that took the world by storm starting in April of 2014. These buttons were a physical device with a connection to the Amazon API located in people's homes and offices. Like them or not, they changed the way people think about how they purchase. While the buttons were retired, the simple act of creating a sustainable ecommerce arrangement stayed, and became today’s auto-replenishment product subscriptions now configured into the Amazon Business model.

Your B2B ecommerce can leverage these same methods of product subscriptions when you work with an experienced B2B digital partner like Xngage to implement the functionality on your website. Additionally, the work doesn't have to stop with a product subscription model. Your customer may be willing to subscribe to a bill of materials, one that they would need regularly, and realize significant logistical savings.

In summary, here are three suggestions or just a few ways in which your B2B business can start to adapt to this model:

  • Saved Product Lists: Create a widget that allows customers to reorder directly from past sales orders. The buyer can decide on what basis they will repurchase the items.
  • Product Subscriptions: Create a widget that selects a product(s) from the catalog and establishes a regular cadence to order the item. Examples include once every two weeks or once a month.
  • Saved Bill of Materials (Saved Carts/Lists): Create a widget that allows buyers to create a list of items that are needed for a recurring situation, such as jobs at certain worksites. Then the buyer would establish a buying pattern, just like the product subscription.

What do you need to get started? Integration of your ERP leveraging your IT and ecommerce teams, support from your Inside Sales and Marketing teams, and valued customers who are willing to help you test to get to a better solution for all. When you're ready, talk to us at Xngage and we can help. 

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